View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

Screen-Shot-2015-05-14-at-9.33.52-AMI’m a senior electrician and operations manager. In both roles, my major function is to lead, and to get people to do their best, as well as to get the job done: on time and on budget. In other words its up to me to get the best my people can do, whether they are white, brown, black, or purple; male, female, or other. I just don’t care.

Are you a competent electrician, able to do all of the duties of the position? That’s my only question. Granted there are parts of the job that require physical strength, there are parts that require a certain type of intelligence. If I need five hundred feet of trench hand dug in wet clay, I’m unlikely to (if I can help it!) send a five foot two, 98 pound electrician (whatever their gender) to do it. To me that’s common sense. But it happens, it also happens that I end up doing it myself, I don’t like it either, but that’s life. The mission is the thing. And my mission is to get the electrical done, come hell or high water.

One of the places I learned that was in Air Force ROTC way back in the age of steam airplanes, and I learned it from men who had driven airplanes from England to places like Schweinfurt, and from islands like Saipan to Tokyo. They understood the costs of the mission very well and accepted it. That mission (unlike mine), projecting through air power the overwhelming force of the United States, cost them the loss of many of their friends. They, and their friends, willingly paid it. They were warriors.

And we are lucky, we still have warriors but, it seems to me that the Air Force has forgotten their mission, and become a touchy-feely, don’t hurt me outfit. If so, it has become a flawed weapon, not to be trusted, and that is the point of this article.

I start with the original poster’s explanation of the author because it is right to do so.

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing tothe Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way. Enjoy and respond. -Q.

★       ★       ★       ★       ★

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way. […]

When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Read it all: One Airman’s View: Open Letter to the SARC : John Q. Public.

There is nothing to add to that, except to thank God for women, no warriors, like Kayce.

Lead her

Follow her

—or—

Get the hell out of her way!

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About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

4 Responses to View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

  1. the unit says:

    Glad those warriors haven’t been run out of the service like some of the higher ups.
    I had a dream. Clayton Williams, you know relax and enjoy, was telling me of the inevitable. Then Helen Thomas, Madeline Albright, Janet Reno, Valarie Jarrett, and the whole Down Low Club walked in. I woke up screaming…”being a victim is bad enough, don’t make me a Dodo Bird.” I’d do my own honor killing on myself first! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      What a nightmare that dream was! I would too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When you were commissioned, what was the climate like with regards to sexual assault? Today, things are bad. We had a new girl show up a few months ago, and when she could not find her room a nice guy helped her find it. He followed her into the room and pushed her up against a wall and started forcibly kissing her. She is engaged and wanted nothing to do with the affection, so she shoved him away. In this case he left, but this is not always the case. The problem with this situation is that it is all too common. I do not know why, honestly, but for some reason young men today seem to think that women want them to be hyper aggressive.

    It is just a fact that needs to be dealt with, and the SARC office has to deal with difficult issues all around. Some of the training is terrible, I admit, but doing nothing is worse. But rather than criticize, what would you do? Did you have to deal with any of this as an Officer, and if so, what did you do. What would you do? If you think that the Air Force you served in has become a flawed weapon, what are you doing about it now? Are you part of the MOAA? Complaining is easy, but working is hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      OK, that’s a very fair question. I wasn’t commissioned, in my fourth semester I was informed that the AF would be just as happy if I didn’t apply for the scholarship, because of the wind down from Vietnam and because I wasn’t flight qualified (hay fever). And, in fact, I left college after that semester to deal with family issues, anyway. So, I never dealt with it in service, if you read here often you’ll find I have a huge respect for those that do.

      I do deal with the problem as a civilian, although we do not have the same sort of housing issues, although we have some. It is a problem, and it’s not an easy one but I think the OP has a point, we have gone too far to the other side, and are creating mountains out of molehills, and creating victims where there are none. With my people, and admittedly I have had few female electricians, although I keep trying to find them. It’s frankly hard to find people willing to do the work anymore, male or female. In the case of my company, which is quite small, I deal with it individually, mostly. I don’t tolerate harassment of anybody, although a few jokes circulate. I try to teach my people to respect each other, and if they can;t well their career will be truncated. No one person’s skills are so important that I will tolerate them costing me employees, and if a (dare I say) real assault is committed, it will be reported to the police, victim willing, I suppose, since it has never happened, perhaps because i make it plain that it won’t be tolerated.

      In fact my editor, Jessica, had a similar experience, in her UK university, her solution was a right cross to the cheekbone, and a notice to him from the Uni that if it happened again, it would be career terminating. She doesn’t do victim well, she tends to solve problems but, not all of us can be so direct. Young men have always had that problem, in my experience, I think it more a matter of discipline (and self-discipline) than anything else.

      Granted in an organization as big as the AF, my ad hoc plocy won’t work but what she describes strikes me as worse than the problem. You’re right though, it’s easy for me to sit here and complain, I don’t have the answer either but, we’ll never find it if we don’t talk rationally about it.

      And thanks so much for commenting.

      Like

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